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Finally, Elections

February 26, 2012

For the past 2 years my stage, that is, the group that I came in with in March 2010,  has been anticipating the 2012 presidential elections. I’ll try and give a quick rundown of where things stand. The current president Abdoulaye Wade has now served two terms and has been president since 2000. He is officially 85 years old, although many believe him to be 90. During his first term as president the constitution was amended to a two term limit on presidents. Wade has argued that this restriction doesn’t apply to him because he was midway through his first term. The opposition movement in Senegal, M-23, doesn’t agree.

My village is pretty apolitical on the whole. But when Wade was rumored to be coming through on his way to campaign in Podor they mustered a demonstration to show their discontent with him. When I asked people why they were protesting they inevitably referenced the village’s lack of electricity, running water, money etc. Not one person mentioned what some critics have referred to as Wade’s bid to move Senegal away from democracy. By the way, this isn’t my position on the issue as I’m not allowed to take political stances on this sort of stuff.

 

Here are some photos from the protest- the color red is important here. It signifies the village’s solidarity with the opposition movement. Oh and a photo of Sinthian wearing my hat.

 

 

 

 

 

A week or so after the village protested I was awoken at maybe around 1 in the morning to screaming and clapping. Since this is far from unusual I went back to sleep and didn’t give it another thought. In the morning I found out that members of PDS, President Wade’s party had come to Diambo and given the village a motor pump for irrigation and the equivalent of $200 US to begin building a mosque.

 

A few days later there was a rally in Podor for the incumbent Wade. Packages of t-shirts and posters bearing photos of his face were delivered to the village. Suddenly everyone was wearing one and queuing up to get on cars bound for Podor. When I asked around about the sudden change of opinion, everyone responded that of course they liked Wade now, look what he did for the village!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know this may seem hypocritical or shallow, but honestly I think this is the reality of politics in Senegal. Friends familiar with the story have commented that what happened in Diambo is just a far more transparent version of what happens in the political world of the West. While I’m not sure if I agree about that, I do think that some Senegalese people view elections based on their instrumental benefits. People in my village don’t really see a difference on an everyday basis between Wade or another candidate, but Wade has provided them with things they can use. The perception is that he has contributed directly to their development, and for that he gets their allegiance.

The more I consider this exchange the less I am bothered by it. Maybe that’s indicative of a mentality that has grown accustomed to this culture.

Today is election day. The last photo is one taken just after I had gotten off the car that took me to Ndioum. Polls close at 6 and we can’t expect results until late tonight at earliest. In the meantime we wait. A few more hours can’t hurt.

 

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